The other day I was minding my own business, stood on top of one of our grain bins, peering in to its dusty darkness to determine how much room was left.
I was so preoccupied with this task that I was quite surprised when I turned around and came face to face (or so it felt) with a spray plane en route to dosing one of our spud fields with a fungicide. It was a great vantage point and I spent a while watching the pilot skillfully swooping down on to the field and making the application. Just 20 minutes later 52ha of potatoes were treated.
A couple of days later I was at the contractor’s yard (also known as an airport) booking some more potato fungicide applications. Upon seeing me the owner chuckled and admitted that he had been piloting the plane. He spotted me while making a preliminary observation lap of the field and confessed that he couldn’t resist “buzzing” over me. He gave me an ice cream as a peace offering.
The aerial applications are a real asset as an irrigation farmer. In peak season the pivots aren’t stationary for long and timely fungicide applications would be difficult to achieve on the ground.
Apologies for those still battling with harvest in the UK. Here August was a sunny one, with temperatures consistently higher than 30C; it made the combining very straightforward. However, with humidity in the region of 15% and gusting 30mph winds, we did have to be careful to make sure a cultivator and water truck were never too far away.
Hopefully, by the time you read this, our thoughts will have turned to potato harvest. Wheat yields and quality are disappointing on the whole; perhaps evidence of the severity of the hailstorms received this season.
On the subject of hail, yet another storm whipped through last week and my field of spring rape got whacked for the fourth time this season. This field was a day away from combining, but with all the hail-induced pod shatter, I think a vacuum cleaner would be a more appropriate tool now.
Seth Pascoe is assistant manager on North Paddock Farms, at Taber, southern Alberta, Canada. Crops on the 720ha of irrigated sandy-loam include potatoes for McCain Foods, durum and soft wheat, GM oilseed rape for seed and timothy for hay.